Love Letters to Jane’s World
Jane’s World by Paige Braddock is a slice-of-life comic about a woman and her circle of friends and girlfriends that’s marking its 20th anniversary this year. For the milestone, Lion Forge has released an anthology collection, Love Letters to Jane’s World, that makes for both a starting point and a celebration of its run.
Over the years, Jane’s World has been a comic strip — the publisher says “the first syndicated comic strip with a lesbian main character to appear in many major newspaper markets” — a comic book series, and a webcomic, moving with the market and the times. That’s what makes it so fun to go back over the years and see the many crazy events Jane has lived through.
Braddock has a loose, comfortable style that makes her characters’ exaggerated reactions read clearly on the page. The introduction is a drawn scene of interruptions that sets out the basic premise: Jane’s ex, Chelle, is hot, but her friends Ethan and Dorothy try to keep her balanced in spite of her love life going back and forth. Although a trailblazer as a lesbian character, Jane is very much a realistic, everyday person anyone can relate to in just trying to get through every day (in spite of the occasional aliens or zombies). Although spending much of its life as a strip, the comics have been reformatted into pages here for easier reading and more effective use of space.
This collection selects various runs of the strip from its life, which makes events a little jumpy. There are short introduction pages between major sections, but I would have appreciated a character rundown, particularly as the cast expands near the end.
We start, as one might expect, with Jane first meeting Chelle, way back as part of her newsroom job. Jane’s World can be a talky strip, with dialogue taking up a good portion of the panels, since it’s based around the relationships between the characters. But to liven things up from the slice-of-life moments, and provide exciting things to look at, there are some bizarre elements as well, such as when Jane and Chelle wash up on an island of Amazon natives.
That calms down over the history of the strip, somewhat, but the possibility of a ridiculous plot turn always remains around the corner, with spies entering late in the run. Major events include road trips, camping trips, taking care of a niece, adopting a dog, a runaway house trailer, and going to therapy.
A lot has happened over the two decades of Jane’s World, much too much to sum up in one 300-page book. At times, I did wonder who various characters were or what had happened that they were referring to, but that’s going to happen when checking in with someone after so long, much like hearing someone else’s stories at a school reunion. With so much time covered, as well, it’s best to dip in and out instead of reading all the way through at once. Jane’s back-and-forth with Chelle, for instance, can get redundant over the span, and the book lags in the middle.
Still, this is a good summary of a strip that’s historically significant; fans of Dykes to Watch Out For looking for another read will particularly want to check it out. You can also read Jane’s World at GoComics.com. (The publisher provided a digital review copy.)